And just like that, they grew up.
I got to witness a couple of amazing things today.
First, two boys who will always be mine taught a whole lesson in algebra. I have absolutely no idea what they taught, though some of the words were familiar, but the fact that they captured a class of 20 of their peers in all their math geekiness and spoke Mathish (a foreign language in which I am not remotely fluent) together as a group for a little over an hour was a sight to behold. These are boys who were still learning how to collaborate and share their thinking clearly when they left me. And now, they are teachers… It was beautiful. I teared up a bit. So proud of those two kids…and all the kids in the room who geeked out together while I listened to what was essentially a foreign reality tv show.
And later on, I got to sit in on a conversation with a group of kids who will always be mine as well (and a few who weren’t ever, but oh would I have loved to teach them when they were little!), discussing stereotypes and archetypes in literature, and how that translates to gender roles in movies and current literature and other media. They were eloquent, disagreed with one another respectfully, made incredibly good and solid points on all sides, and articulated issues in the world that I hadn’t really ever considered, much less would have discussed at 12 and 13 with my peers. Tears flowed freely while they spoke and discussed and argued together.
I remember so clearly when one of them asked me through huge tears, at age 8, if it was ok to cry while reading a story. I remember when all one would write about was Slenderman and Minecraft…creating fantastic answers to questions no one had asked. I remember another who loathed writing…and had no qualms about telling me so…who has now found a voice through poetry. I remember how deeply some felt for characters in novels we read together, how angry they were about injustices both real and fictional, and how passionate they were about taking action when something wasn’t the way they thought it should be…from medieval arranged marriages for power, land, or title, to the fictional possibility of uniforms at our school.
I’ve been out of the classroom two years. And while I don’t regret it necessarily, there are only a few groups of kids left of whom I’ll have memories like this…remembering when they were learning to articulate their thinking clearly, creating valid arguments that went beyond “because it just is,” writing across genres only about zombies, Minecraft, and Pokemon as though those were the most pressing issues of the time. I cannot express how thankful I am to have gotten to be even a tiny part of the lives of these kids…and how grateful I am to get to work with those to taught them after me…knowing they have been in good hands with people who love them and want only good things for them as I do.
This time of year is when things are most bittersweet. Feet in two worlds…one reflecting on the year that was, the growth, the learning…and the other looking forward to what will be…
This is the work that we do…helping to grow kids into human beings who are compassionate and kind, articulate and thoughtful, passionate and excited to learn for the sake of learning…and making strides to be the change they want to see in the world.
Through so much icky in the world right now, there’s hope…and it’s through kids that hope exists.